By John Pierce

[Note: A visit to Atlanta’s Lenox Square Mall last Friday was a good break between long periods of sitting in meetings. Entering Macy’s, I encountered an aggressive cologne gunner. That experience reminded me of a magazine article that I wrote in 1996. Here is an adaptation.]

Shopping is not an obsession of mine, but I confess to enjoying visits to a mall on occasion. Not many men will admit that even if it’s true.

It is typical for men to make disparaging remarks about the shopping pursuits of women. We’ve all heard men brag about “getting what I want and getting out” — as opposed to spending long hours shopping.

But I find shopping malls to be rather pleasant places to stroll about. However, here are a few helpful hints for those guys who may not be as comfortable with trips to the mall.

One: Take careful notice of where you park.

Losing your car in a sea of vehicles is frustrating and humiliating. The tendency is to pace up and down each row of cars with key in hand and a fake look of confidence on your face.

Even if 20 minutes have passed since you exited the mall and you are starting to draw the security guard’s attention, act like you know exactly where you are headed.

Eastgate Mall, the first in my hometown, placed signs with drawings of various animals on the light poles in the parking lot. That was a great idea that should have become a trend.

While it may sound juvenile, all a shopper had to do was remember whether he or she parked by the duck, giraffe, kangaroo or pig. Problem solved.

Two: Don’t wear a coat and tie shopping.

Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time saying: “Sorry, but I don’t work here.”

However, I have been tempted on such occasions to see if I might convince the harried shopper to buy something — with an extended warranty.

But being nice is always in style. If someone says you’re about the same size as their brother, uncle or cousin — just let them hold the sweater or coat up to your back. No big deal. It will be returned to the store in a few weeks.

Three: Avoid marketing survey takers.

With smiles on their faces, they simply ask for a minute or two of your time. Don’t believe them.

Unless you want to spend the next hour in a curtained-off room rating the color and texture of blue jeans, just move to the opposite side of the mall when you spot one of these bounty hunters looking for their next captive.

Four: Beware of cologne sprayers.

Unlike survey takers, these attractive, well-dressed scent shooters can sneak up on you. Generally, they place themselves near the entrances to department stores and on the same floor where fragrances are sold.

For some reason it’s hard to say no to the innocent offer to try the finest new men’s fragrance on the market today. What follows is a four-ounce blast to the wrist and shirt cuff — that causes watery eyes and sneezing.

The strong scent tends to linger well after you search endlessly for your car in the parking lot.

Five: Phrase your questions to sales clerks clearly and carefully.

Don’t be like the woman who asked the men’s clothing clerk: “May I see your underwear?”

Or like my friend who worked in the hardware department at Sears and couldn’t figure out why a customer asked him about a “parasol.”

It turns out the guy was not looking for an umbrella, but rather a “power saw.” But my friend sent him over to “women’s accessories” with a very confused look on his face.


Following these simple hints can enhance your shopping experience whether you choose to visit a mall yourself or are persuaded by others. Black Friday is just ahead. In fact, some stores are opening on Thanksgiving night this year. Be careful out there.

[On a more serious note, the real joy of this season is found in places of the heart rather than in commercial pursuits. May our greatest investments be made in rich relationships and through generous giving that enriches the lives of those with genuine needs.]




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